A Third Place

“We’re in the business of human connection and humanity, creating communities in a third place between home and work.”  – Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

Starbucks recognizes the value of creating community and creating environments where people feel comfortable.  They believe in these things so much that they are willing to structure the way that they do business around fostering them.  They want to be the place where people come to talk, to meet up with friends, and just to hang out.  They want to be a place where people stop in to read, flip through a magazine, or just kill some time.  They want their shops to be people’s third place…the place they go when they are not at home, or at work.

I wonder how we make the church a “third place”, or even more to the point do most churches even want to be third places?  Sometimes I wonder how comfortable we would be if people just came to the church to hang out, even when there is no official church function going on.  I know you have to take into account the need for the church to provide adequate supervision when youth and kids or on church property, but would we even be open to youth stopping by to play pool or ping pong in the church basement.  I don’t know that some churches would be.

Most churches, I believe, would say that they value community, but I also think that most churches want that community to develop during their structured programs….during their planned Home Care Groups…during their “official” times to just hang out at the church.

I wonder what would happen if we were to be more deliberate in creating pockets of opportunity for people to come and spend time at the church.  I know for me growing up church was a third place.  As soon as I left school, rather than going home I went straight to the church to see my youth pastor.  Whatever he was doing on that day…that is what I was going.  We stuffed letters together, setup chairs together, went on visitation together, and a whole lot more.  I honestly don’t think I am overstating it when I say, were it not for those times I would not be where I am today.  The time I spent with my youth pastor had a lasting effect on my walk with Christ.  Without the lessons I learned from him, I don’t know that I would have made it through high school, and I am quite certain I would not have made it through my freshmen year of college.

I wonder how many opportunies we are missing to create community, and to mentor people, just because we are not really open to being a third place?

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